Melbourne author Jessica Au wins $125,000 for ‘quiet strength’ book | Australian Books

Five of the eight winners in Australia’s richest annual literary prize pool are first-time authors this year, with a book of more than 100 pages taking home the Victorian prize of $100,000 for of literature.

Cold Enough for Snow by Melbourne author Jessica Au also won the fiction category at the Victorian Premier’s literary awards on Thursday night, bringing her total prize money to $125,000 for a book that Guardian critic Imogen Dewey described as and “merciful and just”.

The judges praised Au’s book, which follows the beautiful relationship between a mother and daughter as they travel across Japan, as “quietly powerful” and “a masterfully woven novel from a masterful author “.

The book has already exposed Au to an international audience, having won the inaugural Novel Award twice in 2020, an international award that ensures publication in the UK, Ireland, US, Australia and New Zealand.

The slim volume was unanimously selected from nearly 1,500 entries to win the Novel award, with the New York Times comparing Au’s talent to that of Albert Camus.

Cold Enough for Snow is the second book from Au, who works as an editor and bookseller. His first book, Cargo, was published 12 years ago.

Among the fiction, indigenous writing, poetry and young adult categories, young writers are the winners of this year’s Victorian premier’s awards.

Turkish-Australian essayist Eda Gunaydin, a lecturer at the University of Wollongong, won the non-fiction award for her first collection, Root & Branch: Essays on Inheritance.

Lystra Rose, a writer of Guugu Yimithirr, Birri Gubba and Erub communities and Scottish descent, has won an Indian writing award for her first adult fiction book The Upwell, which introduces language and the customs of the Yugambe people in the report.

The young adult prize was won by New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based author Kate Murray for her debut novel We Who Hunt the Hollow, which is also a fantasy novel.

A collection of poems about family, loss, grief, history and redemption, collectively titled At the Altar of Touch, won Beijing-born Brisbane writer Gavin Yuan Gao in the poetry category.

The play The Return, by Saibai Island (Torres Strait) playwright John Harvey, won the drama award. The work attracted rave reviews when it premiered at Melbourne’s Malthouse theater during last year’s Rising festival.

All category winners collect $25,000 each.

The $15,000 Unpublished Manuscript prize was won by Melbourne writer Mick Cummins for One Divine Night which “explores homelessness, social systems and family issues”, while the $2,000 People’s Choice prize went to Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli’s Astronomy: Sky Country, which explores the long history of astronomy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Victorian creative industries minister Steve Dimopoulos said this year’s winners showcased the diversity of creative talent across the country.

He said: “Writers play an important role in our creative industry and cultural life, telling the stories that shape us and show who we are.”

Caro Llewellyn, chief executive of the Wheeler Institute, which runs the awards on behalf of the Victorian Premier, said the fact that early careers accounted for five of the eight winning careers was an indication that “new thinking and powerful new voices are on the rise in the Australian writing community”.

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